For Judas Priest fans, the British heavy metal band’s show Thursday, Dec. 1 at Miami’s Bayfront Park is bittersweet - after all, it’s the group’s “Epitaph Tour,” meaning (on the surface) that it’s the big farewell for the band that gave us the hits “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” and “Living After Midnight.” But of course, things aren’t always as they seem: Lead singer Rob Halford talked to Miami.com about the band’s future plans (there’s a new album in the works), what we can expect from the show, and the fallout from his announcement years ago that he’s gay.
Your Miami date is the band’s second-to-last concert. Will it be an emotional night for you?
They’re all really emotional nights, Michael. I mean, we decided this is the last world tour we’re gonna do, and there are some places we’ll try and come back to at some point. We’re trying to get the important message across that this is not the end of Judas Priest - you know, time marches on and we’re just cutting back on some of these big world tours. We’re looking forward to coming back down to Miami again and seeing all the Metal Maniacs at Bayfront Park, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be coming back to a place like Miami again.
But yeah, it’s a great feeling and in some sense it’s kind of poignant, because like I said there could be some places we’re not getting back to. So we’re pulling out all the stops and we’re doing a two-and-a-half hour show, trying to cover almost 40 years of Judas Priest’s music. And it’s going really well, and that’s all we really care about, that our fans are happy.
Judas Priest recently released a greatest-hits album with the tracks chosen by your peers. Do you fully agree with the choices made on “The Chosen Few”?
We’ve been enjoying a lot of great times with these special box sets and anthologies being remastered, but we really weren’t involved in that respect. We just put some songs out and watched everybody fight in the parking lot. So we were surprised and delighted by the choices as everyone else was, and we were so busy getting ready for this tour, and having a million things to do, that we couldn’t really call up our friends individually and say, “OK, here’s a list of 100 Priest songs.” So they did a wonderful job and we’re delighted with the outcome.
The Miami show is outdoors. Does that change the way the band approaches the stage show?
You know, we’ve played every conceivable gig known to man and beast over the years, so it’s all good. As long as we can get on the stage and plug the amps in, and more importantly put on this big show and have a friendly fire marshal - it’s a very visually powerful performance, over the top.
How’s the new album going?
We’ve mapped out the bulk of the record, and we’re just trying to find the time to finish it. It’s just gonna be a very straightforward, unplugged and uncomplicated, classic “British Steel/Painkiller” vibe. We had a great time with “Nostradamus” - that was a very complex piece - but we’re just going back to basics on the next one.
You kept your sexual orientation private for many years - did coming out cause problems with the band or your fans?
What was the most exciting thing for me to experience was the intelligence and rational compassion and tolerant reaction from all the metalheads. And that’s because metal music has always been kind of a bit of an underdog, even though heavy metal is a global phenomenon. I mean, we go all over the world and play to so many people, it’s unbelievable. But heavy metal still is somewhat persecuted. So I think our fans could relate to my personal journey in life and my sexual discovery. Having said that [laughs], I think I’m still the only one out there. I mean, there’s Elton John and George Michael, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m the only heavy metal homo.
Rob Halford of Judas Priest